17 october 2019

Extinction Rebellion activist dragged from roof of London Underground train

Commuters clash with demonstrators over morning rush hour disruption

Damien Gayle, The Guardian, Thu 17 Oct 2019

Extinction Rebellion activists have disrupted London’s public transport network during rush hour, in an action that is likely to polarise opinion on the environmental movement’s tactics.

There were clashes at Canning Town tube station as commuters dragged a protester from the roof of a Jubilee line train and set upon him. He had to be defended by London Underground staff and other passersby.

At Shadwell, five activists blocked the Docklands Light Railway, with two climbing on top of a train and at least one glued to the door.

Phil Kingston, 83, whose hand was glued to the side of a carriage, said he was doing it for the sake of his grandchildren.

“I’m also very concerned about what’s happening in the poorer parts of the world who are being hit the hardest by climate breakdown,” he said. “I’m a Christian and it really upsets me to see God’s creation being wrecked across the world.

“So I’m here on those three counts and I’m longing for the government to take some actions which are in accord with the parliamentary declaration of climate and environmental emergency.”

Police said four people had been arrested as a result of both incidents.

Ruth Jarman, who sat next to Kingston, said they had targeted the DLR because its destination was London’s financial district.

“It’s heading for the City, which is the God of our time,” she said. “All the scientific reports coming out now about what we should do about the climate breakdown, about the ecological breakdown, we need total transformation of the economy. At the moment we serve economic growth. Humanity, the planet is crucifying itself to economic growth. It cannot go on.”

Extinction Rebellion launched a wave of civil disobedience on 7 October to highlight the risks posed by the climate crisis and the accelerating loss of plant and animal species. At least 1,646 people have been arrested since the protests started.

Most commuters at Shadwell were not impressed. “Is an electric train good or not?” one asked the protesters. “Is this train good for the environment.”

“The way they’re doing it is not right,” said another, who complained that her daughter was now stuck on a DLR train between stations.

Extinction Rebellion said in a statement that activists were willing to go to prison “in order to save lives in acts of conscience and necessity”.

The group said: “The actions are intended to bring further economic disruption to the capital as part of the ongoing campaign to convince the government to take meaningful action on the climate and ecological emergency.

“Safety measures are in place to ensure nobody is trapped underground.”

Other members of XR distanced themselves from the action which, it was explained, was autonomously taken by a number of groups within the movement.

The results of an internal poll of XR members, shared with the Guardian, showed 72% opposed action on London’s underground network under any circumstances.

It is understood the results of the survey were shared with the groups planning the transport action before it took place. No information on the size of the sample or the methodology of the poll was given.

One activist who protested at Canning Town but was not arrested said she regretted that commuters had been affected. When XR activists previously took action on the DLR, in April at Canary Wharf station, it was mainly financial workers who were immediately affected.

British Transport Police said: “Four arrests have been made in connection to the Stratford and Canning Town incidents, with those detained being taken to police custody.

“We continue to urge protesters to not target the London Underground network. This is dangerous, not only for protesters but for commuters.”

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said: “I strongly condemn the Extinction Rebellion protesters who have targeted the London Underground and DLR this morning. This illegal action is extremely dangerous, counterproductive and is causing unacceptable disruption to Londoners who use public transport to get to work.

“It is also an unfair burden on our already overstretched police officers. I urge demonstrators to protest peacefully and within the boundaries of the law.”

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